It should be made clear that at no point, in this movie, does Michael Keaton come back to life as a snowman to reconnect with his son, that is a completely different movie, though horrifying in its own right, while the film we will be looking at today is a low-budget slasher flick that came out in the late 90s, a film that featured a killer snowman who looked even less convincing than what you would find in the window of a dollar store at Christmas time.
Note: The opening credits are a nice nod to the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials.
There are a plethora of machete-wielding maniacs to keep fans of slasher films happy, from Jason Voorhees to Leatherface, but during the direct-to-video boom of the 90s one such killer would forever put his stamp on the genre, and that serial killer would be known as Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald), who during the opening narration we learn had a body count of thirty-eight victims across eleven states before finally being apprehended by Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport) the sheriff of the small town of Snowmonton. The film then takes a page from such notable horror films as Wes Craven’s Shocker and Don Mancini’s Child’s Play with the killer’s soul somehow being transformed into a supernatural entity, only instead of being made of electricity or stuck in a small doll, he has been fused with the surrounding snow. Wait a minute, doesn’t this sound a little like Spider-Man’s nemesis Sandman and his origin story?
The film opens with a State execution transfer vehicle colliding with a genetic research truck and it is here where Jack is exposed to chemicals from inside the truck, causing him to dissolve and fuse with the snow, and as mentioned, this is an origin that is not too dissimilar from that of Flint “Sandman” Marko or even Morris “Hydro-Man” Bench. That his name was Jack Frost, even before being turned into a living snowman, is also very comic book in nature and as we never learn if this was a name given to him by the media we must assume that this was his given name, it’s not like he committed cold-related murders prior to becoming a snowman and the idea of a name informing later super-abilities is right out of the Marvel playbook.
As a film project writer/director Michael Cooney’s Jack Frost is an interesting animal, with it originally going to be a $30 million dollar film directed by Renny Harlin and then being turned into a low-budget project of around half a million dollars, which resulted in the tone of the film shifting from pure horror to that of a campier nature, and despite a quality hand at the helm, and a more than capable cinematographer in the form of Dean Len, and once Jack Frost appears on-screen in all his Styrofoam glory nothing can really be taken seriously. What has made this film survive its failure in the practical effects area is that Michael Cooney fully embraced his production’s shortcomings – not only did he have a ridiculous-looking villain but a January heatwave that forced him to rely on foam and sheets of cotton to simulate snow – but with passion and heart, he pulled together a cast and crew who delivered something that if not loved by all could never be forgotten.
Note: Jack Frost may be one of the silliest looking villains to ever appear on screen but the gore effects provided for the kills are on par with anything found in the best horror films out there.
• We are told that Jack baked body parts into his pies, which makes one wonder if he was a fan of Sweeney Todd?
• One of the murders involves a man getting killed with an axe, but with a nice twist here as it’s the handle not the axe head that does this killing, shoved down the victim’s throat.
• Jack Frost’s ability to instantly shift from a liquid to a solid makes him a shapeshifting villain that predates the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
• Two teens break into the Sheriff’s house to have sex which is a tad unbelievable, and sure, “Danger Sex” can add a bit of extra thrill to coitus but this seems a bit extreme. The ridiculousness of the scene is saved by the equal hilariousness of it taking the couple forever to remove all their winter layers before getting down to business.
• Not since Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has there been a more terrifying bathroom scene than the one found here in Jack Frost.
One cannot claim this film to be anything other than a big goofy low-budget schlock horror film, and for that, I salute the end result. Michael Cooney was given lemons and he made a lemon-flavoured snow cone, thus he gave the world a film that entertained countless fans of the genre and even though the character of Jack Frost never quite reached the heights achieved by the likes of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees it has since staked a claim as one of the more memorable Christmas horror movies out there, and it also gave us Shannon Elizabeth in her first acting role, in a film I find just as entertaining as American Pie.
Jack Frost (1979) – Review
Movie Rank - 6/10
Many look down upon Jack Frost as this ludicrous killer snowman movie but for those that can embrace that selfsame goofy charm that Michael Cooney and company were able to create a lot of fun can be had.